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Creative Gift-Giving Ideas

The winter holidays are a perfect time to show your child's teachers, coaches, caregivers and others who work with them how much you appreciate all they do. But what’s the right gift to give, especially if you’re on a tight budget?

If you’re short on creative, affordable gift-giving ideas, here are a few suggestions to help you (and your child) show appreciation for these dedicated women and men.

Combine Resources

If you would like to give a more substantial gift than your personal finances allow, contact other parents in your child’s class, team or daycare and start an optional fund to purchase a joint gift. Even just a few dollars from each family will really add up! So that no child feels left out (and no one is accused of favoritism!), be sure that every child’s or family’s name is included on the final gift, regardless of whether or not they were able to contribute. Good ideas for group gifts include gift cards to large retail stores or credit card gift cards from Visa, Mastercard, American Express or other major companies. These cards can be used at most retail stores or for online purchases.

Donate Your Time

Instead of buying or making a gift, consider volunteering your time to help out in the classroom, etc. Most teachers have their hands full and would appreciate your help making copies, assembling projects, reading at story time and many other tasks that you can easily do to allow the teacher more time to teach! Create your own decorated certificate stating that it is redeemable for X hours of your time to help in whatever way needed, then wrap it in a box or card for gift-giving.

Give a Classroom Gift

Many teachers spend their own money on classroom necessities due to tight school budgets. A gift basket of age-appropriate books, educational games and/or school supplies can be a lifesaver for dedicated teachers with modest incomes. If you would like to give such a gift, it is usually wise to let the teacher know in advance and ask for a list of items that would be most useful for the class. If you are aware of a specific need (for example, a rug for story time), it is still a good idea to check with the teacher to be sure it is ok to provide it.

Get Your Child in On It

The most special gifts are the ones that have a special meaning or create a memory for the receiver. For teachers, caregivers and others who work with children, a handmade gift from your child is an appreciated keepsake. Ask your child to make a card or draw a picture expressing how he or she feels about the receiver. Or have your child make an item that has special meaning to the receiver, such as a clay teddy bear for a teddy bear collector or a hand-designed mug for a coffee lover.

Give Them a Fun Night Out (or In)

For a more traditional gift, put together a themed gift in a bag (recyclable totes are great!) or basket. Get creative! The idea is to put together several related items that will give the gift receiver to relax and enjoy some pampering! Here are a few examples.

Movie Night:
Include a gift card for a local movie theater or video rental store, bags of microwave popcorn, movie style candy, and cans of soda.

Curl Up with a Good Book:
Include a bookstore gift card, a book light, a book mark or related item. If you happen to know the receiver’s favorite author, include a few of his or her books instead of the gift card.

Coffee Break:
Include a coffee shop gift card, coffee beans, a grinder, a special mug, flavored syrup or anything else you can think of that will give the gift a “buzz!” For non-coffee drinkers, flavored hot chocolate mixes and related items are a great substitute and will really warm them up!

Dinner Out (or In):
Include a restaurant gift card(s) and a copy of the restaurant’s menu (frequently available online) for a night out, or assemble the ingredients for a meal at home. Items could include dried pasta, jarred sauces, a loaf of bakery bread and a homemade dessert. Add a few pretty cloth napkins, wine glasses or similar items to dress it up for a tasty, virtually ready-made meal.


Them We all love to be treated like royalty once in a while. Gift certificates for manicures, pedicures, massages and other relaxing treatments make a great gift for the women – and men – who interact with your child. Or put together a spa basket with bubble bath, bath oils, fragrant soaps, a loofah or sponge and a scented candle for an in-home, ready-made spa kit.

In the end, remember that teachers and other adults who interact with your children do what they do because they love it, not because they expect anything in return. A simple card, handwritten message or just a “Thank You” will be much-appreciated and long remembered at the holidays and all year long.


Illinois Kids First Press Center